This Icy Colorado Canyon Belongs in a Fairytale

Night falls over Ouray Ice Park. Photo Credit: Markus Van Meter.

There’s a tiny town in Colorado called Ouray and if you haven’t been there yet, you should add it to your summer bucket list.

Of course, if you visit during summer, you won’t be able to see one of the most unique canyon experiences in the country – Ouray Ice Park.

This Icy Colorado Canyon Belongs in a Fairytale

The Ouray Ice Park glows in moonlight. Photo Credit:

Markus Van Meter

A part of Colorado that’s known for jagged cliffs and rugged mountain peaks, Ouray Ice Park is found in a natural gorge with icy walls that climb high. Technically, the gorge is called Uncompahgre Gorge, though most locals simply refer to this section as “the ice park.”

There’s a twist though – the icy walls are manmade.

This Icy Colorado Canyon Belongs in a Fairytale

Zoe Hart falls while competing during the ice climbing competition during the 2011 Ouray Ice Festival Saturday, Jan. 8, 2011, in the Ouray Ice Park. The four-day festival, featuring clinics, gear demos, and the competition with climbers from around the world, concludes Sunday. Photo Credit: Christian Murdock.

Designed to be one of the premiere ice-climbing destinations in the world, the Ouray Ice Park has more than 3 miles of cumulative vertical climbing terrain, according to their website. These massive ice walls are formed by 250 showerhead-like water dispensers that can pump out two gallons per minute per dispenser – 500 gallons per minute total. This system is particularly unique because it’s completely gravity fed, with no pump or motor.

This Icy Colorado Canyon Belongs in a Fairytale

Mixed climbing is very popular at the ice park. This involved climbing both ice and rock with pickaxes. Photo Credit:

Markus Van Meter


Each year, the town hosts the Ouray Ice Festival, which attracts some of the best talent in ice-climbing from around the entire world. If you’re new to the sport, this event is the perfect place to check it out. Aside from the competition, there are gear demos and clinics that can help beginners test the waters in a safe and controlled atmosphere.

To find more photos of Ouray and the surrounding area like those in this article, check out photographer Markus Van Meter’s website.


Director of Content and Operations

Spencer McKee is OutThere Colorado's Director of Content and Operations. In his spare time, Spencer loves to hike, rock climb, and trail run. He's on a mission to summit all 58 of Colorado's fourteeners and has already climbed more than half.


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If you don't mind freezing your butt off.

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